Residents of all ages came together to celebrate the early stages of a new era in Red Wing. Friday, May 26, marked the groundbreaking at Levee Park for the new Highway 63 bridge. While work has already started on the Wisconsin side, motorists can rest assured that the Eisenhower Bridge will remain open during the three years of construction.
"Construction causes disruption, but the bridge will remain open. Life as we know it will go on ... with some changes," said Red Wing Mayor Sean Dowse, who served as emcee at the event. "But mostly, we will go about our daily activities and routines, commutes and trips with few changes."
Minnesota and Wisconsin Departments of Transportation officials, accompanied by Dowse, 2nd District Congressman Jason Lewis, state Sen. Mike Goggin, state Rep. Barb Haley and representatives for U.S. Sens. Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar were also in attendance to pass on their remarks.
"A project of this magnitude doesn't happen every day, thankfully. But it doesn't come together overnight," WisDOT Regional Director Jerry Mentzel said. "It's been a long process, a lot of work that's gone into getting us to this point."
With the Eisenhower Bridge soon to retire, it has outlasted its expiration date after first opening in October 1960. Construction on the new $63.4 million bridge, still awaiting an official name to be approved by the Minnesota Legislature, is anticipated to wrap up in August 2020 and is designed to last 100 years.
"The Red Wing Bridge Project is greatly significant for our city and both states on either side of the Mississippi River," Lewis said. "It plays a significant role in the region and it is important we preserve the access it provides over the river."
The Red Wing bridge serves as the only access between Minnesota and Wisconsin south of the Twin Cities for 30 miles in either direction. Approximately 13,300 vehicles cross over it each day.
"Infrastructure investment is one of the pillars of prosperity and I hope this project will help Red Wing and the surrounding region prosper in the future," said Brein Maki, on behalf of Franken.
Afterwards, representatives put on their white hard hats, picked up their shovels and dug into a pile of sand at Levee Park, celebrating the beginning of construction.